1. Alexander of Macedon son of Philip had come from the land of Kittim and defeated Darius king of the Persians and Medes, whom he succeeded as ruler, at first of Hellas.

2. He undertook many campaigns, gained possession of many fortresses, and put the local kings to death.

3. So he advanced to the ends of the earth, plundering nation after nation; the earth grew silent before him, and his ambitious heart swelled with pride.

4. He assembled very powerful forces and subdued provinces, nations and princes, and they became his tributaries.

5. But the time came when Alexander took to his bed, in the knowledge that he was dying.

6. He summoned his officers, noblemen who had been brought up with him from his youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive.

7. Alexander had reigned twelve years when he died.

8. Each of his officers established himself in his own region.

9. All assumed crowns after his death, they and their heirs after them for many years, bringing increasing evils on the world.

10. From these there grew a wicked offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes son of King Antiochus; once a hostage in Rome, he became king in the 107th year of the kingdom of the Greeks.

11. It was then that there emerged from Israel a set of renegades who led many people astray. 'Come,' they said, 'let us ally ourselves with the gentiles surrounding us, for since we separated ourselves from them many misfortunes have overtaken us.'

12. This proposal proved acceptable,

13. and a number of the people eagerly approached the king, who authorised them to practise the gentiles' observances.

14. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, such as the gentiles have,

15. disguised their circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant, submitting to gentile rule as willing slaves of impiety.

16. Once Antiochus had seen his authority established, he determined to make himself king of Egypt and the ruler of both kingdoms.

17. He invaded Egypt in massive strength, with chariots and elephants (and cavalry) and a large fleet.

18. He engaged Ptolemy king of Egypt in battle, and Ptolemy turned back and fled before his advance, leaving many casualties.

19. The fortified cities of Egypt were captured, and Antiochus plundered the country.

20. After his conquest of Egypt, in the year 143, Antiochus turned about and advanced on Israel and Jerusalem in massive strength.

21. Insolently breaking into the sanctuary, he removed the golden altar and the lamp-stand for the light with all its fittings,

22. together with the table for the loaves of permanent offering, the libation vessels, the cups, the golden censers, the veil, the crowns, and the golden decoration on the front of the Temple, which he stripped of everything.

23. He made off with the silver and gold and precious vessels; he discovered the secret treasures and seized them

24. and, removing all these, he went back to his own country, having shed much blood and uttered words of extreme arrogance.

25. There was deep mourning for Israel throughout the country:

26. Rulers and elders groaned; girls and young men wasted away; the women's beauty suffered a change;

27. every bridegroom took up a dirge, the bride sat grief-stricken on her marriage-bed.

28. The earth quaked because of its inhabitants and the whole House of Jacob was clothed with shame.

29. Two years later the king sent the Mysarch through the cities of Judah. He came to Jerusalem with an impressive force,

30. and addressing them with what appeared to be peaceful words, he gained their confidence; then suddenly he fell on the city, dealing it a terrible blow, and destroying many of the people of Israel.

31. He pillaged the city and set it on fire, tore down its houses and encircling wall,

32. took the women and children captive and commandeered the cattle.

33. They then rebuilt the City of David with a great strong wall and strong towers and made this their Citadel.

34. There they installed a brood of sinners, of renegades, who fortified themselves inside it,

35. storing arms and provisions, and depositing there the loot they had collected from Jerusalem; they were to prove a great trouble.

36. It became an ambush for the sanctuary, an evil adversary for Israel at all times.

37. They shed innocent blood all round the sanctuary and defiled the sanctuary itself.

38. The citizens of Jerusalem fled because of them, she became a dwelling-place of strangers; estranged from her own offspring, her children forsook her.

39. Her sanctuary became as forsaken as a desert, her feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbaths into a mockery, her honour into reproach.

40. Her dishonour now fully matched her former glory, her greatness was turned into grief.

41. The king then issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each nation renouncing its particular customs.

42. All the gentiles conformed to the king's decree,

43. and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath.

44. The king also sent edicts by messenger to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, directing them to adopt customs foreign to the country,

45. banning burnt offerings, sacrifices and libations from the sanctuary, profaning Sabbaths and feasts,

46. defiling the sanctuary and everything holy,

47. building altars, shrines and temples for idols, sacrificing pigs and unclean beasts,

48. leaving their sons uncircumcised, and prostituting themselves to all kinds of impurity and abomination,

49. so that they should forget the Law and revoke all observance of it.

50. Anyone not obeying the king's command was to be put to death.

51. Writing in such terms to every part of his kingdom, the king appointed inspectors for the whole people and directed all the towns of Judah to offer sacrifice city by city.

52. Many of the people -- that is, every apostate from the Law -- rallied to them and so committed evil in the country,

53. forcing Israel into hiding in any possible place of refuge.

54. On the fifteenth day of Chislev in the year 145 the king built the appalling abomination on top of the altar of burnt offering; and altars were built in the surrounding towns of Judah

55. and incense offered at the doors of houses and in the streets.

56. Any books of the Law that came to light were torn up and burned.

57. Whenever anyone was discovered possessing a copy of the covenant or practising the Law, the king's decree sentenced him to death.

58. Month after month they took harsh action against any offenders they discovered in the towns of Israel.

59. On the twenty-fifth day of each month, sacrifice was offered on the altar erected on top of the altar of burnt offering.

60. Women who had had their children circumcised were put to death according to the edict

61. with their babies hung round their necks, and the members of their household and those who had performed the circumcision were executed with them.

62. Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food.

63. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed.

64. It was a truly dreadful retribution that visited Israel.

“Subamos sem nos cansarmos, sob a celeste vista do Salvador. Distanciemo-nos das afeições terrenas. Despojemo-nos do homem velho e vistamo-nos do homem novo. Aspiremos à felicidade que nos está reservada.” São Padre Pio de Pietrelcina